CINCINNATI, Ohio — Smartphones, tablets, and all the other digital devices out there tend to get a bad reputation for their impact on modern society. Critics will say staring into a screen all day does nothing but give you “tech neck,” cause distracted driving accidents, and disrupts your sleep with harmful blue lights. Now, a new study is arguing that there’s one thing smart technology is not doing — making people less intelligent.
On the contrary, researchers from the Universities of Cincinnati and Toronto contend smart devices are helping to free our brains up to solve more complex problems and learn other things.
“Despite the headlines, there is no scientific evidence that shows that smartphones and digital technology harm our biological cognitive abilities,” says Cincinnati’s Anthony Chemero in a university release.
Their new study looks at how tech has evolved in the digital age and explains how smart devices now supplement human thinking. This, they say, is helping more people to excel mentally.
“What smartphones and digital technology seem to do instead is to change the ways in which we engage our biological cognitive abilities,” Chemero adds. “These changes are actually cognitively beneficial.”
Smart gadgets make life easier in all settings
Study authors say smartphones are generally taking care of all the time-consuming calculations people used to do with pen and paper. For example, smartphones know the way to destinations like a sports stadium; something people would have had to ask directions or use a map for in the past. In the office, these devices are handling complex math issues and remembering important information.
“We’re not solving complex mathematical problems with pen and paper or memorizing phone numbers in 2021,” Chemero notes.
“You put all that together with a naked human brain and you get something that’s smarter, and the result is that we, supplemented by our technology, are actually capable of accomplishing much more complex tasks than we could with our un-supplemented biological abilities.”
While researchers admit modern technology still has its drawbacks, “making us stupid is not one of them,” Chemero concludes.
The study appears in the Nature Human Behaviour.